I recommend taking your little ones to the dentist as early as you can and definitely before any need for dental intervention comes up. You don’t have to wait until they are a certain age or have a certain number of teeth, just go and have a bit of fun as a family during the experience. Having a positive start sets our children up for a lifetime of great healthy habits and trusting relationships with their dentists! Here is my recent experience as a mum taking her daughter to the dentist!
Charlie is 3 and a half. She is independent and cheeky. She LOVES chocolate and cupcakes, sushi, and German pretzels. She likes playing “dentists” when she and her mum take turns looking inside each other’s mouths and brushing each other’s teeth. Charlie is a “usual” preschooler. “Mum” just happens to be a dentist. Also a “usual” kind of person and more or less a “usual” mum. She believes all her patients are just like her, her husband, and Charlie, only without the nagging dentist in the family.
Charlie’s baby molars are “hypoplastic”, they did not develop properly, so they have very deep grooves, which makes them possibly more prone to tooth decay. Mum had two choices: to compulsively brush Charlie’s teeth after every meal (difficult, because she spends most of her time in daycare), or to take Charlie to the dentist to have some filling material placed in the deep grooves of her baby molars- making them flat and protecting them from decay.
For days, Charlie and mum had been talking about the visit to the dentist. Mum was really excited, and so was Charlie. They talked about how special it will be to lie down in a big chair and have your teeth cleaned and counted by a real dentist. They talked about masks and gloves and lights and mirrors. When the day finally came, Charlie skipped into the dentist’s office where her mum usually works (she was off that day, so Charlie was seeing mum’s colleague). She took a good look around the practice, said hi to all the staff, asked for her favourite music on the iPod and then made herself quite comfortable in the big dentist chair. Legs crossed, dark glasses on, she looked like she was about to have her nails done, not her teeth filled.
With the dentist on one side, mum on the other and the nurse in the background, Charlie felt safe and secure. She followed directions and allowed the dentist to place her fillings without any problems. She then took the mirror off the bench and had a good long look at her new pink fillings. She was over the moon. Before jumping off the chair, she made sure she had a good rinse with some water. She then took another walk around the practice, said thank you and goodbye to everyone, got a beautiful princess sticker, and even posed for a photo!
Mum felt like a dentist next to Charlie while she was having her fillings placed. But when it was all over, she suddenly realized her little baby had been through the whole dental visit unprompted and unforced. It was exhilarating to know that her little girl has met yet another challenge of a new and unknown experience with such strength and confidence. What’s more, it was comforting to know that her early experience was a safe, fun one, something which, unfortunately, not every child will experience.
Being a dentist makes you somewhat desensitized to your patients’ new and somewhat frightening experiences, but being a mum makes you feel all the emotions your patients feel again and with great intensity!